The importance of pre-design

The importance of pre-design

Tips and Advice, Services

This month I thought I might do things a little differently and share a story that showcases why I, unlike my competition, have paid pre-design advice and assessment services.

Recently I had a potential client enquire into using our services to renovate their Queenslander home. As with all of my projects I booked in a time to complete an onsite Design Options Assessment to evaluate their options, wants and needs. These paid low-commitment consultations are a required part of our design process as they enable us to thoroughly evaluate the site (and client’s) requirements, restrictions and options.

In this pre-design service, I asked the client a variety of questions on how they wanted to live in the home. The client had some very specific requirements and I explored various options with them. Even though they had given us their idea of the project budget, the client advised that their budget was flexible and they could spend more than they had suggested. I gave them a clear idea in using a square metre rate on what a builder would most likely charge to complete the work. They accepted this and they upgraded to our Steps 2 – 6 service.

As we moved into Step 2 and developed the brief based on our agreed discussion we tabulated what was discussed and we noted what we expected as a budget. On presentation of this report, the client did a complete turnaround and outlined that they could not spend this much. It became very apparent that the client’s desires were not feasible within their outlined budget. When this occurs I immediately outline the issue to the client and propose an alternative solution – which in this case reduced the project cost by $1m. The client refused to accept this alternative as it removed some parts that they had deemed necessary for their project scope. Unfortunately, this created a stalemate in that the client did not value my expertise as an Architect and refused to be flexible around their desired inclusions.

In order to move forward, the client produced their own sketch idea using their problem-solving skills gained from higher education, and an understanding of what they wanted in their home. I immediately saw some issues in the provided floorplan, especially in relation to their previously outlined needs. I decided I needed another professional opinion to confirm to the client that they were not being realistic. I had our Quantity Surveyor cost planner, and one of our renovation builders, review their sketch – which they found to be more expensive than the alternative solution. As a result, the client decided to seek other input elsewhere. Trust is a big part of any relationship. There is no point in paying for professional services if you are unwilling to trust what that service provider is saying. When you buy a service from Dion Seminara you are purchasing 27 years of design & construction knowledge.

pre-design services ensure a good outcome

This story is an example of why we have every project client complete a Design Options Assessment before we put pen to paper with a sketch design. If we had jumped straight into designing, the client wouldn’t have found out that they couldn’t afford the design until they had already paid for this concept. It is vital that you develop a list of needs with real costs against it before you jump in – the real benefit of our Step 1 (Pre-Design Assessment) & Step 2 (Sketch Design Concept Development), making sure your project will be on time and on budget.

Having a budget does not mean you can have everything you want for that amount, but it does mean your architect can use it to develop a solution that addresses your actual needs, and you can assess together what these are. The key is to explore very early on in the process what you can realistically achieve for your budget. Sometimes that may mean you have to delay building so you can save more, or you may need to borrow more. As long as you are making informed decisions with an expert on hand to assist, you are always going to be better off in the long term.

You can find out more about our pre-design assessment services here.

Dion Seminara Architect


We are experts at home design, renovations and new homes and ensure good value for money outcomes.

Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 30 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.